Downright Fun

20448958Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If God wants to punish some poor bastard, I mean really punish him till he’s ready to poke out his own eyeballs, swallow a .44 Magnum, slit his own wrists, or end his own life in front of a city bus, he should force him to come back to earth as a teenage girl. In less than a month, you’d read about the extravagant deaths of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer and even Hannibal Lector. Yeah, and those sonsofbitches never stood a chance either.

But the true beauty in this novel, aside from the sudden death experience, is all the voices inside the heads of the characters. I happen to hear a voice of my own (my muse), and no, I’m not crazy. But sometimes it feels like I am, so I can’t even imagine what it must be like to walk around LA and hear the voices of poodles and porn stars and strippers and businessmen and models and actors and who the fuck knows what else. If I could end my life in Santa Monica or on the Redondo Beach pier, it’s an offer I’d probably consider, just to make all those bastards shut up. So, yes, one voice is more than enough.

Not all writers can pull off first person plural (in fact I can’t recall another book I’ve read off the top of my head that uses this particular device), but Sarah Mlynowski pulls it off to perfection in DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Even when she drifts a bit into first person, you’re more than ready to go along for the ride. So while you may not want to think about this story, or have it stuck in your head, in the end, it just does.

Other than Cooper and Olivia, I wouldn’t say any of the characters are particularly loveable. In less deft hands, this could be a detriment to the story, as a number of characters spring off the pages clamoring for attention, but I found myself in a happy state of ignorant oblivion, where the pie was sweet even if the characters always weren’t.

This novel is sassy and flirtatious and coy and just downright fun all rolled up into one blast from the first page to the last.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

One Journey We Should All Strive For

19501Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I feel it’s not just my responsibility, but my duty to respond to the negative reviews that have cropped up on Goodreads and elsewhere like sand in the desert. Many reviewers have mentioned EAT, PRAY, LOVE as being self-indulgent. I’m sorry but writing is always going to be self-indulgent, as it gives the writer the ability to work out his or her problems, demons, doubts, and fears. Beyond that, it gives the writer, who does it well, the opportunity to reach beyond friends and family and actually develop an audience and a following.

In the case of Ms.Gilbert, she’s not the only one who walked away from a troubled marriage, and she offers a sense of hope to the reader. Sure, it’s all about her, but it was written in the first person, and it is a memoir after all. Success brings with it a number of detractors, the way palmetto bugs have taken over Florida, and that’s fine. I’m sure she’s accepted her fate, along with the big, fat paycheck that goes along with it. But I’ve decided to celebrate her memoir for what it is, and if the reader simply focuses on that aspect, it’s a well-written read, a journey in self-discovery, and it provides the reader hope. And hope is a beautiful thing.

I tip my hat to Ms. Gilbert and her well-earned success. This fact alone tells me that her story was the right piece written at the right time, that tells me it was lucky, but there was also a connection established between writer and reader, as her individualistic journey is a story many can relate to, especially since our country has built itself around individualism. Though she didn’t necessarily set out to write this book, and was merely looking for a way to find herself again, she has accomplished both, and I might add rather admirably. I can’t think of too many people who would turn down the opportunity she was presented with. Most important of all, though, is that she came out a better, stronger, more rounded person on the other side, and I believe that’s one journey we should all strive for.

Creeped Me Out Something Fierce

8521731Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

If my mother were Lorraine O’Sullivan, I’d have shot her self-absorbed ass and fed her decomposing corpse to the coyotes, while whistling the theme to Deliverance through my missing two front teeth. Which would have presented me with one of two scenarios: either I would have been locked up so fast I wouldn’t have had time to stop whistling let alone scream for an attorney, or Clayton Falls might have thrown a parade for me on the spot, to include fire engines and penny candy and clowns and the local marching band. Either way, though, it would have ended in fireworks.

But aside from parades and jail cells, STILL MISSING creeped me out something fierce. Heck, Deliverance (which I should disclose I haven’t seen) with its mountain men and male rape scene sounds more like rainbows and pixie sticks compared to what transpires in this novel. STILL MISSING is told through flashbacks via Annie O’Sullivan’s therapy sessions, as she talks about her yearlong mountain cabin confinement, daily rape, scheduled pee breaks, and attempts to escape. David, her captor, brings a new definition to the word psychopath.

There’s also a second narrative recounting events in her life following her escape, and frankly, it doesn’t sound like her life has improved all that much. Annie sleeps in closets, jumps at any sound that races through the night, and shuts down from the world around her. She’s a victim in every sense of the word, and her strong, vibrant nature and social life suffer accordingly. Reading about her dramatic change was near gut-wrenching, but this was a book I wasn’t about to put down. With its plot twists, true-to-life characters, confinement issues, and individuals with psychopathic tendencies, this novel has something for everyone, minus the kiddos.

With her debut novel, Chevy Stevens has already proven that she’s a psychological thriller master. I’ve already purchased her follow-up NEVER KNOWING, and I eagerly await the opportunity to be creeped out all over again. I just need to take a few deep breaths before I make the plunge.

A Strong, Particular Shine

17931878The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Made it to 300. Not sure what that says about me, other than the fact that I probably have too much time on my hands. I should probably spend a bit more of it writing, instead of reviewing, but I plan to rectify that situation as well. Otherwise, I’ve checked the gauges, and all systems are a go.

Once again, I’d like to thank all the people who are smarter than I am who have already written a review. That’d be Karen and Kemper and Amanda and Trudi. But as usual we may have a difference of opinion or two, and those errors are more than likely of my own making, so I do have that going for me.

What made me weigh in on THE SHINING GIRLS more than anything was the dichotomy of ratings that spanned my friends’ lists. From over-enthusiastic high ratings to ones that lumbered near the nether regions, this novel brings out the little demon in all of us, some more prominent than others, just as the supernatural house did for Harper Curtis.

“Why did you kill, Harper?” You might ask.
“Because the house told me to.” He’d probably reply with a stint in his eye.

And that was when I wanted to haul off and smack the bastard. Sure, he may have had his reasons—women filled with hope and promise and a strong, particular shine—but those reasons were never completely fleshed out for this reader. So he ended up being more of a machine as the body count ratcheted up, and the violence took a turn for the worse. Which wouldn’t have been all that bad, except his motivations continued to remain less than clear throughout the entire tale. I can say yes to violence just as fast as a football player, but I needed character development and building to give this story a more rounded out finish and a bit of polish. Instead, I ended up more than a bit disconnected, and that out of body experience continued to the end of this blood bath, with women slaughtered like lemmings.

Kirby Mazrachi, the one that got away, had motivation and conviction and a strong sense of purpose, but even she seemed a bit one-dimensional. She held hard and fast to her principles, even as she was being disemboweled on a sandy beach. But she let this one particular focus consume her entire existence, and it nearly swallowed her whole.

And the time-traveling premise while interesting made me want to head on back to my apartment and end up in 1969 with my hair out of line. Like the rest of this novel, it seemed a bit too convenient and forced.

While I can understand  Lauren Beukes‘s reasons behind writing this genre-bending tale the way that she did, it doesn’t mean I have to agree with the final result. Had this novel not hit so close to her home, the execution and gaps might have dried up faster than the Sahara, and she might have ended up with a stronger book in the end.

Challenge Accepted

15839315Being Me by Lisa Renee Jones
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I could say Sara McMillan is as sexy as sin, but then I’d have resorted to a cliché, and I try to avoid them as much as possible in my line of work. But she could make a man drop his drawers, even without the inclusion of alcohol on said occasion. She does have a strong will to go with her soft body and succulent curves, but I’m probably getting a tad ahead of myself.

I’d like to tell you that this particular series hasn’t grabbed ahold of my wrist and yanked me into the midst of it, as I wade my way through the highs and lows of love gone awry, and a particular passion that seems more than just reserved for special occasions. But I’d have to call myself a liar, and I prefer to stick to the truth, and nothing but the truth.

Sure, BEING ME might have been filled with a cliché or two, and I can’t help but admit I was frustrated more than once as I waded my way through the saltwater with my head held high as the waves slapped at my thighs. But it was also filled with some decent writing, and more than one sex scene that hung me out to dry and left me hot and bothered and squirming in my seat. And the characters seemed to have a bit more flesh on their bones than the occasional skeleton in the closet that may or may not have appeared on the scene of the crime.

And it’s also entirely possible this story could have gone more than just a bit astray in the wrong set of hands with the wrong amount of passion at the forefront—and that particular series shall remain nameless here, as I know you can fill in the blank. But that wasn’t the case here. Michael appeared, and then Michael was quickly discarded, along with a father who was more absent than he was present for the party, but instead of turning this particular tale into Swiss cheese, it managed to add an additional layer or two.

So, yeah, this story (and series) more than captured my attention, and Chris Merit showed he could offer up more than just a flavor of the month, while Mark Compton might have had more than just a few screws loose in his closet. *BEGIN SPOILER* And Ava (not to be confused with Gardner) did find herself just a step removed from the insane asylum with her mode of transportation on red alert and the local authorities on standby. *END SPOILER* But it was all a part of the song and dance, and I was more than happy to listen to the band.

While some erotica series start to run out of gas around the end of the second novel, this doesn’t appear to be the case here. So, yeah, I’ll stick around for the third book, and possibly even the ones beyond it, and hope I’m proved right. But there’s also the chance I could be proved wrong. Still, there’s only one way to find out, and I do believe I’m up for the challenge. So as Barney Stinson would say, “Challenge accepted.”

Tough Bananas And Crackers

18090121Under A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

So I have to tell a personal story, and if you don’t like it, that’s just tough bananas and crackers. Sometimes it pays to wander around aimlessly in the middle of a mystery conference. You never know what wonderful solutions you might stumble upon. In this particular instance, I happened upon Elizabeth Haynes, and her newest novel UNDER A SILENT MOON. Of course, I had to bypass a slightly impaired individual first, who when I asked her, “What’s everybody in line for?” She promptly and without the slightest hint of a smirk or a smile responded, “A book signing.” Thank you, Captain Obvious. Here would have been the perfect opportunity to offer up any number of wisecracks, all of which slipped right on by me in my semi-agitated state.

But I walked around, burned off a bit of steam, and discovered a treasure trove when I made it all the way to the front of the line. I received one signed ARC courtesy of Elizabeth Haynes and one signed hardcover courtesy of Alafair Burke, so yeah, I’d say it was worth the trouble. I also conveyed to Ms. Haynes how much I enjoyed INTO THE DARKEST CORNER, and I didn’t even need to fib. That alone probably could have put Albany on the map for me, but there are other stories to tell. None of which have anything remotely to do with this novel, so I’ll save them for another round on the merry-go-round.

Unfortunately, though, my complete intoxication made her newest novel just an okay read for me. Sure, it was a police procedural; sure, Louisa Smith (or Lou for short) has a soft voice, a sweet body, and a good head above her breastbone; sure, there was more than one body deader than a skunk on the side of the road; sure, the pace moved along in a rather efficient manner once I dipped a bit more than my toes in the water; sure, there was more than one bout of suffocation sexcapades that really set my imagination afire; and sure, the women and men were all equal parts intriguing and mind-boggling. And there might have even been a free love department marathon, not that yours truly was complaining.

But this novel didn’t make my toes curl, the way her debut novel did. I mean that was some serious shit, and this was merely minor shit. And I know I shouldn’t compare the two novels, and I know Ms. Haynes can write circles around plenty of writers and still have a few more spins left in the tank, and I know I probably would have enjoyed this novel had I not read her debut novel, but I can’t erase the image of that particular masterpiece from the equation, since it touched me on some deeper level, and nearly caused me to forget who I was for about six hours. While this tale just was strictly a wee bit of entertainment.

Oh, and I’d be a bit remiss, if I didn’t mention the situation near the end of this story, so cover your eyes and ears, if you’d prefer not to see how your eggs are cooked. *BEGIN SPOILER* Suzanne Martin was a perfectly excellent villain, and might have been a bit too smart for her own good. But, seriously, you’re going to spout off the entire story of how you killed Polly Leuchars to Andrew Hamilton. I don’t care if he’s a fuckwit of an investigator, and you’re going to turn around and drug his ass later, and even if he was a rather entertaining shag for a few hours. *END SPOILER*

Otherwise, I’d say we’re doing just fine here. Just not fine enough for my heightened expectations.

I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon.

Swift Kick To The Crotch

11713449Delirium by Lauren Oliver
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I feel rather low in my current state of mind as I simply try to pass the time. Without it being said, I have this feeling of dread that I somehow showed up at the wrong address, received a swift kick to the crotch, and then someone stole my watch. Writing this review and offering up a few lines without the promise of a single dime might just be the only way to make my spirit chime. If I can provide a few rhymes, maybe it will afford me a comfort of sorts or at least I can purport the significance of the situation before it leads to my own constipation of words, as the well runs dry, and I bat an eye at the pages I’ve left behind.

While I hoped to involve myself in this story of sorts caught in the ever promising world of Maine that Stephen King managed to indulge with more than a bit of fame, I fell flat on my face, and scraped my brace on the asphalt before me, as my hope dwindled to bits on a sea of shit. When I closed my eyes I saw the prize of Magdalena Morgan Jones swift to rise above the clouds and offer up a second wind, even if I wasn’t particularly interested in what she had to offer. Sure, she could tempt me with her charms and offer up a song and dance and possibly even a little romance, but I’d make a swift dash in the other direction.

Alex showed a bit of promise before it quickly dwindled to bits, and he turned into somewhat of a twit who made a rather stupendous sacrifice, even if he didn’t have a major vice that I could ascertain with my butane lighter. No other character really stood out for me in this ultimate and tragic dichotomy. Sure, it’s easy to argue my view has been tainted, and that I’m currently out of the market for sainthood, but I’ll say it again to you, my friend, that I think the story could have been shorter. A good editor in a current state of DELIRIUM could have hacked away and chosen to play with a number of fewer words.

And as I search for the Cure you’ll forgive me I’m sure if I decide not to continue on with this series. For while the masses may have come I don’t think I’m the one this particular tale was intended for. Now it’s off to my bed—or maybe off with my head. But either way, I’m proud to say that I continued this rhyme in spirit or in practice even if I did manage to make an ass of myself before I pulled the plug on the whole enchilada.

On The Back Of A Pickup Truck

18143775Above by Isla Morley
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I think it’s safe to say at this point in my life I was not the intended audience for this book. I wanted to show up for the party, and I had every intention of dancing with a pretty lass until the world ended, and I met my maker on the back of a pickup truck. But, alas, it twas not to be. The door was slammed in my face, and I was unable to march through the threshold. Or maybe I was at the bottom of a pit while the laughing hyena on top smiled and grinned at me.

Blythe Hallowell didn’t really work for me as a character, and as the leader of this charade, I felt more than a little cheated and dismayed. Sure, she’s lived a sheltered life, kept against her will, and has a son named Adam who is her pride and joy. But she seemed to travel back in time in both spirit and vocabulary, instead of dealing with the present apocalypse at hand. The plot seemed more than a little out of place within the ABOVE pages, and my mind raced a little too hard to fill in a few of the story gaps. Or maybe that was just my memory lapse.

Dobbs didn’t really have a decent bone in his body, and I like to see a bit more from my villains. He was more one-dimensional enemy than a man who got lost somewhere within the confines of this life or the next. And he had plenty of time to build up a little rapport with the heroine of this tale, but he failed on multiple levels.

The big escape left me grasping for more, even if my wishes were going to remain unfulfilled. And a life such as this could have used a little more bliss, even if the world was ready to end. And the big reveal at the end of this tale left me shaking my head, as I turned in for bed. I slipped away hoping to come back again someday, only to have my world filled with a shimmering array of darkness.

Maybe, though, I just need to blame myself for not getting it and call it a day, because while I like to think I have a grand master plan if the world were to come to an end tomorrow. I don’t. I’d probably just pack up my ship and sail out to sea and hope that a monster with a few extra tentacles somehow doesn’t find me.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

A Peeping Tom

17130754Hot Ticket (Sinners on Tour, #3) by Olivia Cunning
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Whenever I read an Olivia Cunning novel, I feel like a Peeping Tom. I see, taste, touch, smell, and hear on a whole nother level. Sensory overload feels like a flippin’ understatement. I could speculate on where she comes up with her material, but I’d be similar to an accountant pulling numbers out of his ass. What I do know is that I often feel as though I’m about to do something illegal, and before the day is out, I’m liable to get caught. So when I’m staring down the barrel of a gun at the two individuals who just walked through my front door, I’ll hope and pray that they are wearing five inch stilettos, corsets, black lace thongs, and that they’re packing bullwhips on their luscious hips, instead of Tasers. As long as that’s the case, the blue uniforms and dark sunglasses will work out just fine.

I’ll admit I have the second book in my hip pocket, but what intrigued me more was a stripper/dominatrix named Mistress V who wears red leather boots in her pleasure room, and has enough curves to stop a semi at sixty miles an hour on a rain slick highway. I mean…damn. No, it’s more like double damn. And what had me really cheering from the nosebleeds was her convincing turn on the merry go round and humanizing V to the point that I nearly stood up and cheered, even if I was the only one around.

Yes, you can laugh at me all you want, and I might even deserve it, but all I saw were glorious curves and bending and twisting and bodies intertwining…and you can probably fill in a few of the blanks. I could practically feel the sexual excitement through my Kindle. I know it sounds crazy, and possibly even ridiculous, but if erotica has you racing to the bedroom faster than a thoroughbred, you’ll want to hop on this horse and ride it all the way to the ground. Guys, you need to grab this for your lady friend. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. In fact, you’ll be sending me Christmas cards for the next fifty years.

Sure, the dialogue may sometimes resemble partially hydrogenated cheeseballs; the rock stars and female sidebars may take a few of the more blatant stereotypes to heart; the plot might be as predictable as a one-way flight to Houston; and the subplots may not always be fleshed out in the same manner as Mistress V aka Aggie. But this is one train where you can thoroughly enjoy the ride. Just make sure you close the door to your sleep car.

Your Latest Life Lesson

10859145Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If you’re here for your latest life lesson, it’s this: Don’t ever answer an exterminator ad. You might find your life terminated, after the CIA takes a hit out on your ass. Sure, the money sounds good and all, but fifty grand ain’t what it used to be. And if I have a choice between life and death, I think I’ll go with life, Bob.

PEST CONTROL finds us in the midst of a painful existence of one Bob Dillon (not to be confused with the Bob Dylan) who has some trouble with bugs after he shoves a garden hose up his boss’s nose. Yes, the man has anger management issues, and he’s probably breathed in his share of toxic fumes (which doesn’t really help his cause). What he lacks in employment, though, he more than makes up for in spirit. Or you could just call it gusto. He hops up on desks and shouts to the heavens and breeds beetles in his spare room and deals with one pissed off landlord on a semi-regular basis.

If that isn’t bad enough, he also has a hit man named Klaus (not to be confused with Santa) breathing down his neck. There’s also a little person who has a penchant for pink panties, which wouldn’t be so bad except the she is a he; a hit woman (after all we’re equal opportunity employers here) with a fondness for shoving white truffles down the gullet of her latest victim; a cowboy with his own rodeo and a fondness for killing; and other nefarious individuals who shall not be named.

If you’re looking for the straight and narrow, you won’t find it here. What you will find are enough strange individuals to fill an entire city block, an over-the-top plot that at times had trouble maintaining believability, dialogue that shuddered, a narrative that might have had a loophole or two in logic and a bit of a jump in time, and pages plastered with dead insects in every possible manner known to the pest community.

If you can believe it, this was even musical material. While I’m not sure I understand that particular angle, I did find myself amused at what took place over the course of this tale. If you have a penchant for half-baked tales that could have been composed on the back of a napkin after you (and possibly the author) surrounded yourselves in a smoke-filled haze, then this story’s for you. Just make sure you wash your hands first and then possibly after.